Why Does Kiwi Burn My Tongue? [Itchy Mouth After Eating Kiwi]

Intro: Have you ever bitten into a juicy kiwi and found your tongue tingling or even burning afterward? You’re not alone. This phenomenon, known as “Itchy Tongue After Eating Kiwi,” can be an unnerving experience. Let’s delve into why this happens.

7 Reasons Why Does Kiwi Burn My Tongue?

1. Protease Enzymes

Kiwis contain protease enzymes, specifically actinidin, which are known to break down proteins. These enzymes don’t just work on the proteins in the foods they come into contact with; they also interact with the proteins present in your mouth and tongue. As the actinidin breaks down these proteins, it can cause a tingling or burning sensation. This is the same reason why pineapple, which contains the protease enzyme bromelain, can have a similar effect. These enzymes are quite powerful and efficient in their activity, which is why you might feel the sensation almost immediately upon consuming the fruit.

In addition to their culinary uses for tenderizing meat, protease enzymes have a biological function that assists in the digestion of proteins. However, in the context of immediate interaction with your tongue and oral tissues, this enzymatic activity can be uncomfortable. Some people may find that the sensation lasts only for a short while, whereas others may experience it for an extended period depending on individual sensitivity.

2. Acidity

Kiwis have a fairly low pH, making them acidic fruits. The acidity can also contribute to the sensation of burning or tingling on the tongue. Acidic foods can be harsh on the sensitive skin inside your mouth, particularly if you already have sores or sensitive spots. The citric and ascorbic acids in kiwis interact with your oral tissues, causing a feeling similar to mild burning.

This sensation is not exclusive to kiwis and can also be experienced with other acidic fruits like oranges and lemons. Moreover, if you already have micro-abrasions or small cuts in your mouth, the acidic content can aggravate these areas. The combination of acidity and enzymes can be particularly potent, making the experience even more noticeable.

3. Allergic Reaction

Though uncommon, some people may be allergic to kiwis. Symptoms of a kiwi allergy can include itching or burning in the mouth and, in severe cases, can escalate to include hives, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis. If you experience severe symptoms after eating kiwi, you should seek medical attention immediately.

However, some people may experience oral allergy syndrome (OAS), a milder form of allergy that primarily affects the mouth and throat. OAS is often caused by cross-reactivity between proteins in the fruit and pollen allergens. This can lead to localized discomfort but is typically not severe. If you suspect you have an allergy to kiwi, consult an allergist for testing and guidance.

4. Individual Sensitivity

Individuals have varying degrees of sensitivity to different types of food. Some people may simply have a more sensitive oral mucosa that is more susceptible to the enzymatic and acidic properties of kiwi. If you already have a history of sensitivity to other foods or certain textures, this could amplify the burning sensation when eating kiwi.

Personal sensitivity can also depend on the current state of your oral health. If you have recently consumed spicy foods, hot beverages, or have a history of oral conditions like canker sores, your mouth may already be in a sensitive state. Consuming kiwi in this condition can amplify the feeling of discomfort or burning, even if you usually tolerate the fruit well.

5. Skin Contact

Not just the flesh of the kiwi, but also its skin, can be a reason for the burning sensation. Kiwi skins are edible but have a slightly abrasive texture due to their fine hairs. These can irritate the skin on your tongue and inside your mouth. Additionally, the skin also contains protease enzymes and acids, making it another potential culprit for the tingling or burning sensation.

Some people prefer to eat the whole kiwi, skin and all, because of its high fiber content. However, if you’re sensitive to the flesh of the kiwi, the skin is likely to cause similar or even amplified symptoms. If you’re keen on consuming the skin for its nutritional benefits, try it in small amounts initially to gauge how your body reacts.

6. Varietal Differences

There are multiple varieties of kiwi, each with its own concentration of enzymes and acidity. The most common types include the green kiwifruit and the golden kiwifruit. Some people may find that one type causes more discomfort than another. This can be due to varying levels of actinidin or acidity in different varieties.

In particular, golden kiwifruit is generally considered to be less acidic than its green counterpart, which may make it a better option for those who experience a burning sensation when consuming the fruit. Even within the same variety, the ripeness of the fruit can influence its chemical composition, potentially impacting how it interacts with your mouth.

7. Consumption with Other Foods

The experience of eating kiwi can be affected by what you eat it with. For example, consuming kiwi along with dairy products may neutralize some of the enzymatic activity, reducing the tingling sensation. On the other hand, if you eat kiwi alongside other acidic or enzymatic foods, the combined effect can intensify the feeling of discomfort.

This can also extend to beverages. Alcoholic or acidic drinks can enhance the sensation of burning or tingling due to their own acidity or alcohol content. So, if you’re experiencing discomfort after eating kiwi, consider what else you’ve consumed around the same time as the fruit. This could be a contributing factor to the sensation you’re experiencing.

How To Stop Kiwi From Burning Tongue?

To stop your tongue from burning, you can either eat ripe kiwis, which are less acidic, or you can try cooking them to deactivate the enzymes. Another method is to avoid consuming the skin with a higher concentration of irritants.

Cooked kiwi has less actinidin; the enzyme that is one of the primary irritants. Heating the kiwi in the microwave for 30 seconds can denature these proteins and may reduce their irritating effects. You can also opt for kiwi varieties that are bred to be less acidic, and therefore less likely to cause irritation.

Eating ripe kiwis is another solution. A ripe kiwi has lower levels of actinidin, and its natural sugars help to counterbalance the acidity. Look for kiwis that yield slightly to touch; these are generally ripe and easier on your mouth.

How Can I Heal My Tongue After Eating Kiwi?

To heal your tongue, rinse your mouth with cold water immediately. You can also apply a cold compress or suck on an ice cube. For more severe symptoms, antihistamines can be helpful.

Initially, rinsing your mouth with cold water can remove some of the irritating substances and soothe the immediate discomfort. This also helps by neutralizing the acidity left in your mouth after eating the fruit.

For ongoing discomfort, a cold compress on the affected area can reduce inflammation and numb the area. If your tongue feels inflamed for a longer period, over-the-counter antihistamines can help. They work by blocking the histamines that trigger allergic reactions, which might be the underlying reason for your discomfort.

Kiwi Allergy: Symptoms & Triggers

Symptoms of Kiwi Allergy

Kiwi is a delicious fruit that many people enjoy, but for some individuals, eating kiwi can lead to allergic reactions. The symptoms of a kiwi allergy can vary in severity and can appear immediately or a few hours after consumption. Mild symptoms often include itching or tingling in the mouth, lips, and throat right after eating the fruit. Some people may experience more severe symptoms, such as swelling of the lips, face, and tongue. Rashes or hives on the skin are also common and can be itchy and uncomfortable.

In more severe cases, individuals may experience gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Anaphylaxis is the most serious allergic reaction and is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing, a rapid drop in blood pressure, and loss of consciousness. In severe cases, anaphylactic shock can occur and may be life-threatening. If you or someone you know shows signs of a severe allergic reaction to kiwi, seek medical help immediately.

Triggers of Kiwi Allergy

Various factors can trigger kiwi allergies, and the allergenic proteins in kiwi are often to blame. Actinidin is one of the primary allergens in kiwi that may cause an allergic reaction. Some people can consume a small amount of the fruit without experiencing symptoms, but larger quantities can trigger an allergic reaction. Cooking or baking the kiwi may reduce the allergenicity, but this does not guarantee that symptoms won’t occur.

Cross-reactivity is another concern for those with a kiwi allergy. This occurs when proteins in one substance are similar to proteins in another, leading the immune system to react to both. For example, people who are allergic to latex, avocados, or bananas may also experience allergic reactions to kiwi. It’s also worth noting that some individuals are only allergic to certain varieties of kiwi, while others may react to all types. If you suspect you have a kiwi allergy, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management.

Final Thoughts

While kiwi is a delicious and nutritious fruit, it can sometimes have uncomfortable side effects, such as a burning or tingling sensation in the mouth. The culprits are often the actinidin enzyme and the fruit’s natural acidity, though allergies can also play a role.

It’s important to identify the root cause of your discomfort. Whether it’s the acidity, enzymes, or an allergy, understanding why kiwi affects you this way can help you take preventive measures. Options range from eating cooked or ripe kiwis to taking over-the-counter antihistamines.

If the symptoms are recurrent or severe, seeking medical advice is crucial for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Always listen to your body and choose what works best for you. A simple tweak could make the difference between a painful experience and enjoying this exotic fruit.